The Great Big How Much is Enough Bike Blog Roundup

We started this week with the idea that little plans are not enough - you can't build a cycling economy on the 5% who are happy to ride with nothing but paint on the road for encouragement, and that while quick and cheap fixes can be great in the right circumstances, on some roads (and especially junctions) even a barrowload of armadillos can be totally inadequate (especially if they don't last the week). So what is enough? Well with British Cycling launching its plan to turn Britain into a cycling nation and joining with the CTC to pressurise MPS to 'Choose Cycling', clearly words are not enough, we need a decent business plan, and with the prize of greater cycling worth more than Olympic Gold. Despite this, the Guardian asks whether the politicians will listen any more than they did last year (although it looks as if Sinn Fein are already on board). And while Treehugger reckons the plan should be applied in the US as well, Pedal on Parliament pointed out that the report is asking for significantly less money than public health and active travel groups were united in asking for four years ago. And if that seems a lot, Seattle bike blog puts relative transport spending into perspective - and after all, it can cost as much as £300,000 to build a piece of shared use pavement (those 'cyclist dismount' signs don't come cheap you know).

It's a health matter

British Cycling produced evidence that cycling could £250m a year for the NHS - added to the news that Boris Bikes are good for your health, especially for the older person. However we also need to make sure that all of us, cyclists included, are thinking of more than the needs of fit young men on two wheels. Sustrans asks for smart investment to help get Britain active, while in the US, doctors and cycling and walking advocates join forces to pitch the health benefits of cycling (unless you live in Long Island, in which case you really shouldn't be cycling at all) while rails to trails considers what will happen as America ages.

Money isn't everything

While more money would help, we also need to ask for the right designs in our design standards - not ones copied from a misunderstood blog post. The UK certainly has miles to go before the authorities even understand what Dutch infrastructre is all about, while if what's being built is anything to go by, Ireland's new standards aren't up to scratch yet either. And standards need a little flexibility built in - after all, rigid standards imply designs have been perfected when (in the case of the US anyway), they clearly haven't. We need to understand how simultaneous green junctions really work - because bikes move in easy curves (and not, say, 90 degree bends at speed). And when building high speed cycle routes we need a little ambition for our little green bridges - and we probably need to also consider the impact of e-bikes on designing for cycling.


The consultations continue

Meanwhile, as we await an outbreak of first-class design among UK authorities, we have to keep on responding to endless consultations in the hopes that the end results aren't actively lethal. In Bath, suggestions are actually being sought for routes and designs in the city and surroundings, while the Leeds/Bradford city connect route needs your comments. In Southampton a junction gets even worse than the design consulted on. In Edinburgh, despite changes to the road layout Haymarket's tram tracks are still proving dangerous after authorities ignored Spokes's warnings months before. The latest plans for Leith Walk are an improvement for pedestrians although still only likely to benefit the more experienced cyclist, while a Cambridge junction gets some slight improvements but there's still no real look at the bigger picture. Newcycling takes a good hard look at the plans for the Great North Road while Cycling Dumfries considers the options for a part of town cut off by two busy roads. And if all that consulting feels a bit futile, then it's still better than the alternative, with river path closures with barely any notice, or plans for flood defences in Plymouth that take no account of cyclists at all.

Picking apart the London grid

Of course, this week's big consultation exercise was the London grid proposal; Rachel Aldred urges anyone who lives or cycles in London to respond. The London Cycling Campaign set the concept three key tests and the responses from bloggers and campaigners suggest it's failing most of them - it appears to have succumbed to the idea of the 'dual network' that ends up suitable for nobody, it needs to learn from Copenhagen and not shovel cyclists away on the back streets, it needs to be accessible to all cyclists, it needs more east-west routes. There were also views from Lambeth and even Lewisham, even though the grid doesn't stretch that far (while across the Atlantic Calgary's simple downtown grid was drawing some envious glances).

Calming traffic... or cutting it altogether

As residents are asked about street closures in Tooting, in Glasgow a bit of filtered permeability would not go amiss (although there are places where a contraflow is just insane). In Brooklyn, two adjacent communities react to traffic calming proposals very differently (I mean, imagine the horror of having cyclists 'fly past you' if you drive at 20mph), while in Vienna the debate has become so polarised it's hard to take the opposition seriously although at least in Seattle the lawsuit over its bike master plan has finally been dropped as residents and businesses decide to engage more constructively. As Auckland takes baby steps away from car dependency with a tiny ciclovia (and even then people seem timid about taking to the streets), Bogota ups the ante with a whole traffic-free week. In Copenhagen, where the bikes are in danger of really becoming traffic, Copenhagenize looks back at the transformation of a shopping street by pedestrianisation. And possibly Chicago may follow suit with pedestrianisation mooted for 20 streets - opening its neighbourhood streets to the people - although the mayor is not that keen. And while we're at it, why not tear down some urban freeways too? We can think of a few cities in the UK that could do with that too...


Are we bored with the sneckdowns yet?

Meanwhile, Mother Nature's little street design tool the sneckdown has gone a bit viral (what would be the flooding equivalent, we wonder, in rain-soaked Britain?). Philadelphia has already used sneckdowns from 2011 to build better streets while Bike Portland proposes a pedestrian plaza while some junctions which are already due to get a temporary makeover show their potential


Building better neighbourhoods

Whether it's through fancy snow sculptures or not, once more there was plenty of evidence of how cycling can be used to boost small business's bottom lines (even if they sometimes don't get the green incentives quite right) through improving their streets - even when the actual infrastructure isn't all that great. We need to stop pretending that carbon emissions are the only problem with cars - after all, congestion imposes costs and for some trips it's hard to imagine how they could be managed without a bike - or that more parking is the answer to the high street's woes. On the other hand, cycle-unfriendly streets impose a poverty of choice - and even when they seem to be walkable or cyclable, poorer areas are often less conducive to active travel than richer ones. While Groningen is recognised for its sustainable travel, and a Swedish city isn't satisfied with one in four trips being by bike and targets a 33% bike share, here in the UK Bodmin council appears to be going for a 100% modal share for cars instead - and New Zealand is still building brand new car-dependent communities and is looking at a lost generation of children who have never cycled to school.

Blast from the past

There was a bit of nostalgia among some bloggers this year with a 30-year-old video about cycling in London resurfacing, showing how painfully slow progress has been, despite changes being made quite quickly then, and how little cycling really has 'boomed' in recent years. And we weren't the only ones looking back - in the US a 40 year old report showed they already knew that paint on the road wasn't enough. Shame it took them so long to actually do something about it.

The real costs of inaction

Meanwhile we should all bear in mind the real cost of inaction on safer streets - the Ranty Highwayman found that attending a vigil gave him real pause for thought, while even in an 'incident free' year, one can be haunted by ghost bikes. And this week seemed particularly bad with two cyclists killed in Berkshire, another death in Manchester and a 78-year old man killed while cycling in Edinburgh yesterday. It wasn't helped by a judge directing a jury to ignore the Highway Code nor by revised sentencing over a child's death while playing in the street, or a drunk hit-and-run driver only being charged with careless driving - for some it made the whole legal process seem futile while Cranking It decides to give his testimony now before it's too late. The Road Justice campaign petitioned for better policing while Magnatom would rather drivers didn't try to make their point by endangering his safety. And things were no better in the US where a driver blames that 'new car smell' for a crash that killed a cyclist. Sometimes the law itself doesn't help, with the BBC looking at how crossing the road became a crime in the US - while in Buffalo they want to know what about jaydriving? And while a driver is finally fined for violating Washington's vulnerable road user law, and three cycle safety bills are under discussion in Arizona, elsewhere drivers seem to think cyclists are only allowed on the roads if they can ride at the speed limit.

Safety by design?


So if the law won't help us, where does real safety lie? Even for pedestrians, it's not with lollipop ladies - as the roads are too dangerous for them to be allowed to work there - and not with pedestrian crossings when the design omits a red light for drivers while people are trying to cross. Not with helmets if the Dutch are anything to go by and not with ubiquitous cameras, even if police in Leeds are startling cyclists by asking for helmet cam footage. Definitely not from banishing dangerous bikes from buildings on health and safety grounds. Possibly some safety does come from safety in numbers. Some may come from Andrew Gilligan responding to the London Cycle Safety petition - although perhaps the city should follow New York and now Portland in adopting a 'vision zero' for road deaths. But more importantly, road design projects should have to answer the question will this make people safer? And analyse behaviour to design out recklessness by looking at what cyclists actually do.

Campaigning update

Meanwhile, the campaigning goes on, with Space for Cycling getting £30,000 funding to go national, and local campaigns from Kensington and Chelsea to Newcastle working out the details locally. While Total Womens Cycling were celebrating UK women in cycling, in the US, ten of them are planning to bike 300 miles together to the US summit to raise awareness - and Bike Biz named its most influential people in UK cycling. Meanwhile in Brazil (and why isn't this better known?) the World Bicycle Forum kicked off on Wednesday.


Here and around the world

As Bristol cyclists wonder where their flowers are, Richmond hope for better things for Hampton Court Road and Manchester University students and staff join forces in bike trains - perhaps one way of tackling London's best and worst bridges in safety. Further afield, rather than wait for the city to install one, New Yorkers plan to build their own bike counter. Bikeable Jo gets news of the joys of cycling in Chicago, a city still learning how to accommodate the bike, while a new temporary bike path fills in one of Seattle's 'black holes' for cycling. Stung by comparisons to its twin city, Minneapolis, St Paul creates an 8-80 bike plan (although some of the little details, like how to pay for it, are still to be worked out). Portland considers the options for protected cycling on a busy street (and seems determined to choose the least ambitious. While even in Zimbabwe, Danish diplomats still cycle to work.

And finally

Well we almost got through the whole week without mentioning Valentine's Day (or 'VD' as twitter seems to have unfortunately abbreviated it) but Bike Portland couldn't help but admit the love that dare not speak its name while if you wanted your flowers delivered by bike there is of course an app for that. More seriously, the CTC's Chris Oliver has some important information all you chaps need to know if you're to make the most of romance - as Commute by Bike found out the hard way. And for the ladeeez? Well, it turns out that a little rain, even in California, won't get between the bike riding woman and her wine and chocolate, to nobody's great surprise. But why aren't ALL cycle campaigning events like that, eh?